Voyage of the Beagle: A Few Facts

  • During the five-year Beagle expedition, Darwin shipped home 1,529 species preserved in spirit and 3,907 labelled skins, bones and other dried specimens.
  • In 1833, Darwin inadvertently ate a new bird species for Christmas dinner on the Beagle. When he realised, the leftovers were immediately preserved and sent home. They were later named after Darwin as the lesser rhea – Rhea darwinii.
  • Darwin collected fossils of extinct giant mammals, such as the giant ground sloth and the armoured Glyptodon, as well as living animals and plants.
  • When Darwin explored the Galapagos Islands in 1835, it was the similarities and differences between mockingbirds – not the famous finches – on different islands that made him wonder how they were related.
  • The first record of Darwin’s idea that all living things are related and have a common ancestor came six months after the Beagle voyage. He sketched a diagram of an evolutionary tree, its branching lines resembling the structure of an alga specimen, called Amphiroa orbignyana, that he collected in Argentina.
  • Darwin in north Australia was named by two of Darwin’s former shipmates, who led the Beagle’s next voyage. 
  • King’s College London has a good summary about the voyage of the Beagle on its website.
  • Britannica also has an excellent history of HMS Beagle.

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